Lionel Messi scored a spectacular goal and added an assist as Barcelona edged a tough PSV Eindhoven 2-1 on matchday five of Group B on Wednesday night at the Philips Stadion in Eindhoven.
Messi broke the deadlock on the hour mark with another goal that defied belief before contributing an assist via free kick on Pique’s 70th minute goal. A Luuk de Jong header gave PSV hope late, but the Catalonians would close things out to claim the three points and ensure themselves a first-place finish in the group.
With striker Luis Suarez out injured, manager Ernesto Valverde went with a starting XI consisting of Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele in attack, while centre-back Samuel Umtiti was ruled out with a minor injury and replaced by Clement Lenglet.
PSV had the brighter start of the two and the Dutch side could call themselves unlucky when a Gaston Pereiro effort stung the post after a poor giveaway from Ivan Rakitic.
It took a bit of time but Barcelona once finally warmed up after a half-hour, they started pelting the PSV goal with an array of shots, one a searing right-footer from Coutinho followed by a pair of efforts from Arturo Vidal that each had to be cleared off the line.
Still, PSV were dangerous when they were able to break forward and the woodwork would once again come to Barcelona’s rescue shortly before the half, as a De Jong header bounced off Marc-Andre ter Stegen’s crossbar. Denzel Dumfries was there to pounce on the deflection but he bundled his shot off the post, much to the dismay of PSV boss and former Barcelona player Mark van Bommel.
PSV had to learn the brutal lesson that you can only pardon Barcelona so many times, and you can only hold Messi in check for so long. It was right at the hour mark when the Argentine decided to take things over, and he completed a one-two combination with a sensational strike, somehow carving out space among a sea of PSV defenders and firing in a left-footer at the near post for a 0-1 advantage.
The goal was just the lift Barcelona needed and it did not take long for the second to come, however it was far from orthodox as a Messi free kick was re-directed in by Pique. On second look, the goal was no accident. Sergio Busquets moved into the wall as Messi was running up to take his kick and it created space for Messi to find Pique, who hit it perfectly for the goal and 0-2 lead.
PSV never threw in the towel though and after having been denied on a header in the waning moments of the first-half, De Jong made good on his second attempt, smacking in a cross from Angelino that cut Barcelona’s advantage to 1-2.
Suddenly, Barcelona were staring at a nervy finish as PSV sent all numbers forward in hopes of an equaliser. That left a ton of space in the PSV half and substitute Malcom should have finished off a Messi-led counterattack, but the Brazilian fired well over the crossbar.
In the end though, the Malcom miss would prove inconsequential for a Barcelona side on the cusp of completing another unbeaten Champions League group stage campaign.
1.- PSV Eindhoven: Zoet; Dumfries, Schwaab, Viergever, Angelino; Rosario, Hendrix (Gutierrez, min. 72); Lozano, Pereiro (Malen, min. 72), Bergwijn (Romero, min. 79); Luuk de Jong.
2.- Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Semedo, Pique, Lenglet, Jordi Alba; Vidal, Busquets, Rakitic; Dembele (Denis Suarez, min. 80), Messi, Coutinho (Malcom, min. 69).
Goals: 0-1, min. 61: Messi; 0-2, min. 70: Pique; 1-2, min. 82: De Jong.
Referee: Pavel Kralovec (Czech Republic).
Yellow cards: Hendrix (Min. 25) for PSV, Gutierrez (Min. 84) for PSV, De Jong (Min. 84) for PSV, Alba (Min. 86) for Barcelona.
Red cards: None.